Ken Gonzales-Day Examines Racially-Motivated Killings, Past and Present

Ken Gonzales-Day, “Hands Up,” 2015. Chromogenic print.

Ken GonzalesDay (2012 Visual Arts) will premiere his Creative Capital-supported project with the solo exhibition, Ken GonzalesDay: Run Up, on view at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles from April 4 through May 9, 2015. Run Up is the latest chapter in GonzalesDay’s acclaimed Erased Lynching series, selections of which have been acquired by the Smithsonian Institution, the Norton Museum of Art and numerous private collections, and exhibited in museums and galleries in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, London, Paris, Vienna, Mexico City and other major cities. I connected with him to learn more about this timely project.

Jenny Gill: Your past work has involved a lot of archival research, exploring histories of racial profiling and racially motivated crime. These issues have really come to the forefront in the past year with the shootings of Trayvon Martin in Florida, Michael Brown in Ferguson, and other police violence. Did this body of work shift in response to those current events?

Ken Gonzales-Day: The work is directly informed by recent events but my research on vigilantism and lynching began in 2000. The early research looked at the lynching of Mexicans and other people of color in California as a way of expanding our understanding of the history of lynching in the United States, and to more accurately reflect its impact in the American West. My book, Lynching in the West: 1850-1935 (Duke, 2006) included over 350 cases of lynching and vigilantism in California and was able to document the many communities of color that were touched by this history. This new series of works grew out of that research but it is also responding to both the similarities, and the differences, between lynching and the kinds of racialized violence that are occurring today. Continue reading

Jeffery Allen Releases “Song of the Shank,” a Lyrical Work of Historical Fiction Both “Dream-like and Real”

Left: Book cover for "Song of the Shank," published by Graywolf Press; Right: Photo of Blind Tom.

Left: Book cover for “Song of the Shank,” published by Graywolf Press; Right: Photo of Blind Tom.

Jeffery Renard Allen‘s Creative Capital-supported project, the novel Song of the Shank, is being published by Graywolf Press on June 17. At the heart of this remarkable work is Thomas Greene Wiggins, a 19th-century slave and improbable musical genius who performed under the name Blind Tom. As the novel ranges from Tom’s boyhood as a sightless, probably autistic piano virtuoso to the heights of his performing career, the inscrutable savant is buffeted by opportunistic teachers and crooked managers, crackpot healers and militant prophets. In his symphonic novel, Allen blends history and fantastical invention to bring to life a radical cipher, a man who profoundly changes all who encounter him.

Song of the Shank is already garnering tremendous critical acclaim, including a forthcoming review on the front cover of the New York Times Book Review that calls the novel “masterly” and praises Allen as “a prodigiously gifted risk-taker. In the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Jeff Calder calls Song of the Shank “a landmark of modern African-American literature,” and concludes, “Reading through this sagacious volume is like stumbling on a crooked monument covered in celestial carvings, something that aims for the stars and ends up reconfiguring constellations.” In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews raves, “If there’s any justice, Allen’s visionary work, as startlingly inventive as one of his subject’s performances, should propel him to the front rank of American novelists.” Continue reading

A Creative Capital Gathering in Berlin: Discussing Gender, Disability And Human Rights In Germany

Quintan Ana Wikswo (left) and Kenny Fries

Quintan Ana Wikswo and Kenny Fries

At the 2013 Creative Capital Artist Retreat, awardees Kenny Fries (2009 Literature) and Quintan Ana Wikswo (2013 Emerging Fields) discovered deeply compelling intersections in their work around the Jewish/queer/disabled body in Germany. To their great delight, they realized they’d both be working on those intersections in Berlin that autumn—Kenny to begin a new book, and Quintan to exhibit her interdisciplinary work at The Jewish Museum in Berlin.

The pair immediately devised a plan to organize a salon-style gathering of Berlin-based artists, activists and scholars whose work focuses upon gender, disability, ethnicity and genocide in Germany. When Creative Capital stepped in with financial support through the Grantee Gatherings program, Kenny opened the doors to his apartment and a stimulating, provocative and profoundly generative event took shape. Continue reading

Jesse Sugarmann’s “We Build Excitement” Commemorates the Rise and Fall of the American Auto Industry

Jesse Sugarmann, Production still, "We Build Excitement (Pontiac, MI)," digital video, 2013

Jesse Sugarmann, Production still, “We Build Excitement (Pontiac, MI),” digital video, 2013

Jesse Sugarmann (2012 Film/Video) premieres his Creative Capital-supported project, We Build Excitement, with a solo exhibition at Southern Exposure, opening April 4, 2014. The exhibition presents a series of performances and videos examining the evolution of the American auto industry as a parallel to shifting American identity.

Two years ago, Sugarmann began opening unsanctioned Pontiac dealerships in decommissioned car dealership locations across the U.S. He activates these shuttered businesses as sites of celebration, honoring both the American auto-worker and our fraught, intimate relationships to cars themselves. Assembling temporary modernist monuments with Pontiac cars, Sugarmann gives form to the precarious nature of the auto industry. In video works, he documents laid-off assembly line workers and car accident victims recreating the movements of their former jobs and crashes, respectively. Their deadpan choreography forms a moving homage to the mundane and the traumatic moments in both the birth and death of the automobile.

I connected with Jesse to learn more about this ongoing body of work.

Jenny Gill: Talk to me about Pontiac. When did you start making work about the auto industry, and what is it about Pontiac specifically that you’re interested in?

Jesse Sugarmann: Cars have been of primary interest to me for as long as I can remember. I grew up in rural Connecticut, far away from pretty much everything. I felt really isolated there, almost trapped. So, as a kid, distance was always this enemy, something between me and what I wanted to get to. And cars, to me, were this obvious antidote to distance. I became fascinated with cars from an early age. And it stuck with me, this idea of cars as freeing objects, purveyors of mobility and autonomy. Continue reading

Cristina Ibarra’s “Las Marthas” Documents a Colonial Debutante Ball in Laredo, TX

A debutante emerges in Las Marthas (photo by Craig Marsden)

A debutante emerges in “Las Marthas” (photo by Craig Marsden)

Cristina Ibarra (2005 Film/Video) premieres her Creative Capital-supported documentary, Las Marthas, in San Antonio’s CineFestival with a screening at Guadalupe Theater on Tuesday, February 25 at 9:00pm. The film is the winner of the festival’s Special Jury Award. Las Marthas had its broadcast premiere on PBS’s Independent Lens on February 17 and is available to stream online through PBS Video until March 19. Other upcoming festival screenings include San Diego Latino Film Festival, Chicago Latino Film Festival and Ambulante California. Continue reading

Artist to Artist: Neal Medlyn and Jessica Almasy Discuss America

Neal Medlyn and Jessica Almasy

Neal Medlyn and Jessica Almasy

Listen online to the podcast of this conversation, or subscribe through iTunes

Neal Medlyn: Hey everybody. It’s me, Neal Medlyn. I’m here with Jessica Almasy from The TEAM at the Grey Dog and we’re going to talk to you about America for Creative Capital.

Jessica Almasy: Helloooo!

Neal: I was just thinking that we would get together because Jessica’s work is somewhat about America and I think that my work is about America, too. I don’t get asked about that very much. So, I wanted to talk about what it’s like to make work about America and have various experiences of people responding or not responding to it. I just wanted to have a wide-ranging and thought-provoking conversation about making work about America. [Laughs]

Jessica: Awesome. I’d like to start by giving a little context for where The Team is coming from. I’m part of the collaborative theater ensemble The Team, and we created a mission statement about ten years ago, which states that we make plays about America. So, if we’re succeeding, then that’s what we’re doing. Also, we had to create an acronym for legal purposes back in the day when we incorporated, so Team stands for Theater of the Emerging American Moment; so again, it’s right in the title. Our job is to think about what is happening right now. We gained our first traction in the UK at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, so people really read our work as information from America being made by young Americans. We were like a specimen for them. I think there’s a really big difference when you’re out of context than when you’re ensconced in your own culture. Continue reading

Video: Ghana ThinkTank at the 2013 Artist Retreat

Ghana ThinkTank (2013 Emerging Fields) presented on their Creative Capital-supported project, Ghana ThinkTank at the Mexican Border, at the 2013 Artist Retreat. You can watch more artist presentations from the Retreat on our Vimeo channel.